Building resilient smart textiles at speed

A method for quickly producing laser-printed smart fabrics has been developed by scientists at RMIT.

The method is cost-efficient and scalable and can produce a 10x10cm smart textile patch in three minutes. These patches are waterproof, stretchable, and easily combinable with energy harvesting technologies.

The e-textile technology will enable graphene supercapacitors, to be laser printed onto textiles. The potential capacity of graphene in digital devices allows for much more powerful and long-lasting storage devices, which can combine with solar or other sources of power.

Smart textiles are already being utilised in applications for the consumer, medical, and defence sectors, and can provide information on fatigue, health, or location.

The textiles still require power, however, and finding a way to easily provide energy to these devices is the focus of the research at RMIT.

“Current approaches to smart textile energy storage, like stitching batteries into garments or using e-fibres, can be cumbersome and heavy, and can also have capacity issues,” said Dr Litty Thekkekara, from RMIT’s School of Science.

Another issue is the use of these technologies in difficult environments, which will naturally arise as part of their use.

“These electronic components can also suffer short-circuits and mechanical failure when they come into contact with sweat or with moisture from the environment,” said Thekkakara.

“Our graphene-based supercapacitor is not only fully washable, it can store the energy needed to power an intelligent garment – and it can be made in minutes at large scale.”